There are around 14 million Jews in the world today, less than 0.2 per cent of the global population, yet this remarkable people has always provoked a curiosity, stimulated an admiration, goaded an antipathy and exerted an influence out of all proportion to its numbers. Tracing its origins back to the Biblical patriarch Abraham approximately 3,500 years ago, redeemed from Egyptian slavery by Moses and bound to the One God at Mt Sinai around 1250 BC, the religion of the Jews - Judaism - gave birth to the two other monotheistic faiths of Christianity and Islam. Exiled from their ancestral homeland for two-thirds of their history and dispersed East and West, the Jews contributed significantly to every country that allowed them in. Resilient and adaptable, they flourished in every branch of trade, commerce, banking, medicine, the arts, the sciences and academic life opened to them. They survived centuries of prejudice and oppression, culminating in the Nazi holocaust in which six million perished.
The re-built State of Israel, created in 1948 and where nearly half of world Jewry now lives, is constantly in the news, less for its cutting-edge achievements in medicine, science and technology than for its hostile relationship with its Palestinian neighbours and the wider Arab world. Once again, the focus of world attention is on the Jews. This is their story from ancient times to the present day.